Sunday, October 10, 2010

The 2009 Draft & Internationals

Pittsburgh went pitching heavy in 2009, and singed a posse of high school arms. That makes this draft tough to analyze this soon; most of the hurlers worked at State College and are several steps away from making their mark. The Pirates did a nice job of signing their selections in 2009, inking the top 13 selections. The players are:

C Tony Sanchez (#1 - Boston College): The cries of cheapskate rang through the Pirate nation when Sanchez's selection was made and he was quickly signed, but the FO proved dumb as a fox; Sanchez, 22, may now be the top position prospect in the Pirate system. He hit .309 in 2009, mostly playing at Class A West Virginia (and was named Sally League Player of the Week) and moved to Lynchburg at the end of the season to join them in their championship run. Sanchez was hitting .314 at Bradenton before being felled by a broken jaw; he was on the USA Futures team and was named a Florida State All-Star. He'll play winter ball this year to keep on track, and should be at Altoona to open 2011.

RHP Victor Black (sandwich pick - Dallas Baptist): Black, 22, is a fireballer who had a nice start in 2009 at State College, where he was 1-2 with a 3.45 ERA in 31-1/3 innings; he K'ed 33 and walked 15. Control, or lack thereof, will dictate his future upside. 2010 was a throw-away season; he missed almost all of it due to bicep tendinitis and will probably start out at West Virginia next year.

RHP Brooks Pounders (#2 - Temecula Valley HS); Pounders, who just turned 20, is a big guy who relies on a four pitch mix rather than his average heat. He had a good rookie campaign in the GCL (2-2, 3.04 ERA) and not so hot a year at State College in 2010 (3-3, 4.46). Pounders was admittedly a project when drafted, and at 270 pounds, has conditioning issue to work through, too. He'll start at West Virginia next year to continue the process.

CF Evan Chambers (#3 - Hillsborough CC): Chambers, 21, is speedy, has a good glove and arm, and has all the tools but power. His OBP at State College and WV is .384, he's stolen 41 bases...and his BA is .239. Chambers is intriguing, but has to learn to be more aggressive in the box; he's hitting out of too many pitcher's counts, affecting his average and K rate. He should move on Bradenton in 2011 where they'll work on making him a little less patient.

LHP Zack Dodson (#4 - Castroville HS): Dodson, 20, signed late for a $600K bonus, and worked just an inning in 2009 for the GCL Pirates. He went to State College in 2010, where he posted a 2-6 record with a 4.84 ERA. Dodson relies on his curve; the high ERA is probably due to the Pirates' pounding fastball command into their young hurlers heads. The Texan is ticketed for West Virginia in 2011.

LHP Nathan Baker (#5 - Mississippi): Baker, 22, was one of the Top 150 prospects in the draft and dominated at State College in 2009. He continued to pitch well in 2010, splitting time between West Virginia and Bradenton, compiling a combined 8-8 slate with a 3.00 ERA. Baker doesn't miss many bats; there's still some internal debate whether to move him on or let him start at Bradenton in 2011.

RHP Zack Von Rosenberg (#6 - Zachary HS) Von Rosenberg, who just turned 20, was a late sign, getting a $1.2M bonus. He was 1-6 with a 3.20 ERA at State College in 2010, struggling early but improving as the year went on. His control was good, but his strikeout rate wasn't strong. He'll move move up to West Virginia in 2011, but probably with an inning limit; ZVR only worked 59 frames last year. The Bucs are hoping for a breakout year; he was considered among the top players selected in upside during the draft, as his bonus shows.

RHP Trent Stevenson (#7 - Scottsdale HS): Stevenson, 20, started in the GCL; in 2010, most of his work was done for State College. He was 0-2 with a 4.43 ERA there, and his peripherals weren't very strong. But he was drafted on potential; Stevenson was unpolished as a HS pitcher. He's another one that will move on to West Virginia to continue the finishing process.

LHP Colton Cain (#8 - Waxahachie HS): Cain, 19, also signed late for a $1.125M bonus. He started 2010 in the GCL, and did most of his work at State College, where he was 1-1 with a 5.03 ERA but good peripherals. Cain had back surgery and started the year late, but seems to be fine now. Baseball America ranked him the 10th best prospect in the NYPL. He should open 2011 at West Virginia.

2B Brock Holt (#9 - Rice): Holt, 22, has put himself on the Pirate radar, making the All-Star teams of both leagues he's played for. He hit .299 at State College in 2009 and was off to a sizzling .351 start at Bradenton before he suffered a knee injury in a collision, costing him the rest of the year. A good glove, Holt had been playing SS, and is in the middle infield mix; he should start at Altoona in 2011.

C Joey Schoenfield (#10 - Garden Grove HS): Schoenfield, 19, is a very raw catcher who has good enough speed and athletic ability to move to a corner position. He signed for $125K, and spent a little time in the GCL in 2009. He stayed there in 2010, hitting .281 as the back-up catcher; he only nailed 2 of 21 base stealers. He'll go to State College next year while the Bucs decide where to play him.

1B Aaron Baker (#11 - Oklahoma): Baker just turned 23, and showed some power at West Virginia, where he hit .253/18/79 with a lot of whiffs and walks. He'll go to Bradenton next season, and at his age will need a breakout season to become a serious prospect.

RHP Jeff Inman (#12 - Stanford): Inman, 22, signed just before the deadline for a $425K bonus. He threw his fastball 93-95 in a brief 2009 stop at State College, and was hitting 96 consistently during spring training. He was slated to open 2010 at West Virginia, but went on the DL and was shut down for good in mid-July with elbow problems.

RHP Ryan Beckman (#18 - Grayson County CC): Beckman, 20, is being groomed as a reliever. His stat line in the GCL and at State College were mediocre; he doesn't miss many bats, though his other peripherals were fine. His velocity picked up this year and he's a 2-1 ground ball pitcher, so he has some promise. Beckman will likely land in the West Virginia pen in 2011.

RHP Phil Irwin (#21 - Mississippi): Irwin, 23, dominated in State College in 2009. He spent 2010 at West Virginia, compiling a 6-3, 3.35 ERA line. Irwin had strong peripheral numbers, and his velocity increased from the high eighties to the low nineties. The Pirates moved him up to Bradenton for the playoffs at the end of the year, and he'll probably start 2011 with them. His stuff isn't considered overwhelming, so each level up will be a test for him.

OF Jose Hernandez (#23 - Texas at Arlington): Hernandez, 24, had a so-so year at State College in 2009, but did some damage with the stick at West Virginia with a line of .271/12/57. He's not much of a fielder and old for his level; he's probably an organizational player.

LHP Zack Fuesser (#34 - Walters State CC): Fuesser, 20, signed for a $125K bonus, and pitched pretty well in the GCL during 2009. At State College, he was 0-4 with a 3.64 ERA and decent peripherals except for walks; he needs work on his control. Fuesser throws in the upper 80s - low 90s range, and is tough on lefties; his future may be in the pen as a LOOGY.

This draft was a mixed bag; Tony Sanchez is the only fast-tracked guy in it, and that's to be expected of a high school and CC player dominated draft. But its youth makes it volatile; it could go bust as easily as boom. No one but Sanchez has broken from the pack.

The stat lines for most of the high school pitchers aren't overwhelming; but you have to careful about what you read into that. The Pirate mantra in State College is fastball control and command, so the pitchers are often one-trick ponies until they master the heater. They also dole out innings carefully. The Spikes use a piggy back pitching system, splitting games among two starters to keep the inning count down.

One oddity you'll note; the young pitchers are all on track to go to West Virginia, and there's only one ball, an inevitable problem when you overload with high school talent. The Pirates are aggressive with college players and cautious with high school guys; we'd expect more piggy-backing in West Virginia in 2011.

The Latino Signings:

This will go down as the year they blew signing Miguel Angel Sano. But they did pick up a boatload of signees, 36 in all, in 2009. So at least the numbers are in their favor.

LHP Joely Rodriguez (Dominican Republic) Rodriguez, 18, came to the GCL after a season in the DSL, and put up a 2-2-1 record with a 3.99 ERA, good stats for age, and even got a late call up to State College, where he held his own. J-Rod isn't a strikeout guy, but a groundball pitcher who may get to start out in State College next year, which would be impressive considering his age.

OF Gregory Polanco (Dominican Republic): Polanco, 19, spent a year in the DSL and was promoted to the GCL in 2010, where he hit just .202 with some power. He finished tied for fourth in the GCL in steals, and played right and center. Polanco played most of the year as an 18 year old, so the stats are a bit misleading. The Pirates have yet to determine if he'll go to State College or start in the GCL in 2011.

OF Gavi Nivar (Dominican Republic): Nivar, 21, got a cup of coffee in the GCL in 2010 after spending a year in the DSL. He may return to the GCL or be pushed to State College because of his age.

RHP Joan Montero (Dominican Republic): Montero, 21, was 1-3-3 for the GCL Bucs in 2010 with a 3.13 ERA working out of the pen. He had significant control problems, but because of his age could move up to State College next year.

OF Jesus Vasquez (Dominican Republic): Vasquez, 18, hit .265/5/40 in the DSL, and was named an All-Star. He should make it to El Norte in 2011.

LHP Martires Cadet (Dominican Republic) Cadet, 19, was 3-3 with a 2.31 ERA as a starter. He's a control pitcher and may be brought north in 2011.

SS Carlos Esqueda (Mexico) Esqueda, 18, hit .349 in his VSL debut in 2010. If he doesn't join the GCL in 2011, it'll only be due to his age.

Of the three dozen Latino players the Pirates signed in 2009, this is the best of the lot so far. Again, remember that these guys can sign when they're 16, so they're harder to project and more raw than even a high school draft pick. In fact, the DSL team had 35 players pass through it in 2010; three were old enough to buy a beer (in PNC Park, anyway!)

Other International Signees:

RHP Mitchell Fienemann (Australia) Fienemann started out in the GCL in 2009, and worked for State College this season. He went 3-3 with a 3.62 ERA working out of the pen, and all his peripheral stats were in line. Fienemann will probably move to West Virginia next season.

C Dylan Child (Australia): Child, 19, played in the GCL, hitting .181. A converted shortstop, he logged more innings at first than behind the dish. Child will probably make a return to the GCL in 2011.

RHP Jarryd Sullivan (Australia): Sullivan, 20, pitched mostly in the GCL with a brief call up to State College. Overall, he was 3-4 with a 4.46 ERA. He'll likely move up a level because of his age.

RHP Dovydas Neverauskas (Lithuania): Neverauskas, 17, was unearthed at a MLB tryout camp, throwing 88 MPH as a 16 year old. He pitched briefly in the GCL in 2010, working 10 innings. That's probably the level he'll start out at in 2011. Neverauskas is raw, but the fact that he's in the States instead of a Euro academy means the Bucs think he's got a shot.

RHP Sheng-Chin Hung (Taiwan): Hung, 19, was beat up in a brief showing in the GCL. He throws a 91 MPH fastball along with a curve and change. He'll be back in the GCL next season.

OF Daan Cornelissen (Netherlands): Cornelissen, 19, is a speedy corner outfielder that's in need of some plate discipline. He was overmatched at the dish in the GCL, and will return to the Rookie squad in 2011.

OF Ping-Hung Chi (Taiwan): A speedy (supposedly one of the fastest guys in the system) 19 year old that bats lefty is always a good thing to have. Chi was also was overmatched in the GCL, and will return there in 2011.

1B Chi-Wei Hsu (Taiwan): Hsu won't turn 19 until December. He played a bit in the GCL in 2010, and will return there in 2011.

There are no standout prospects in this group. The encouraging sign is that the Pirates are beginning to get some cred in the Pacific Rim, signing players from Australia and Taiwan.

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